Law OKs HMO Bargaining

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced legislation Monday to ensure the rights of medical professionals to bargain as a group with HMOs and insurance companies. [@@]

Paul told the House that his proposed Quality Health Care Coalition Act removes a government-imposed barrier to true free market health care.

“As an OB-GYN with over 30 years in practice, I am well aware of how young physicians coming out of medical school feel compelled to sign contracts with HMOs that may contain clauses that compromise their professional integrity,” he said.

For examples, HMOs sometimes prohibit doctors from discussing all available treatments because they are too expensive.

Health care professionals forming voluntary association to negotiate HMOs could help counter their power. But they would risk running afoul of federal anti-trust laws.

“This not only reduces the ability of health care professionals to negotiate with HMOs on a level playing field, but also constitutes an unconstitutional violation of medical professionals’ freedom of contract and association,” Paul said.

Paul asserted that antitrust laws harm consumers by preventing the operation of the free market, causing prices to rise and quality to suffer, “and as is certainly the case with the relationship between the HMOs and the medical professionals, favoring certain industries over others.”